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Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 60, leave out lines 38 to 43.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 60, line 46, leave out ("3(2)") and insert ("3(7)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lauderdale moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 61, line 45, leave out from ("practicable") to end of line 46 and insert (", save to the extent required by rule 2A below.
2A. The electorates of the regions shall be such that the representation of predominantly rural regions in relation to the representation of predominantly urban regions is comparable, so far as practicable, to that achieved by the distribution of places in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, when the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, spoke of rural Scotland, it came to my mind that when I first came back to Scotland as a boy, having been born and reared abroad, I was struck by the fact that it is a rural country. It is not a country of towns; it is a country of countryside. Most of the people who live there are farmers or crofters. My amendment is drafted with that fact in mind.

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The Scottish Constitutional Convention made a brave effort to anticipate the danger that the Scottish parliament would be dominated by the central belt from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I am afraid that its solution would not achieve what it seeks.

Perhaps I may consider the proposed Euro- constituencies one by one. Strathclyde East will range from Kilmarnock to East Kilbride and, if my eyesight is not misleading me, even to Strathaven, Stonehouse and Carluke. Strathclyde West will range from Paisley and Greenock to Dumbarton. Mid-Scotland will range from Stirling to St. Andrews and the constituency of the South of Scotland will range from Ayr to Dumfries, Peebles, Jedburgh, Hawick, Galashiels and Lauder, where I belong. All those towns are to some extent colonies either of Glasgow or of Edinburgh.

The problem is not a new one. It has been faced and, to a certain extent, solved over the years by CoSLA, the now well-established and respected Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Earlier we discussed the possibility of a second chamber for the Scottish parliament. I suggest that CoSLA is an obvious source of recruits for such a chamber, but be that as it may. That body maintains an agricultural forum--I believe that that is the term--and has devised a complicated system to make sure that the conurbations do not predominate.

The CoSLA arrangements do not hinge on the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies; let alone on those for the European Parliament, but on groupings of district council areas. The CoSLA constitution contains a distribution of seats weighted towards councils with a lower population density. Thus, the Orkneys, with a population of only 1,800, have three seats whereas the city of Glasgow (representing 616,430) is given only eight seats. In other words, there are more than 77,000 electors per seat.

I believe it would be impossible now to combine such a system with that already in the Bill. Had I thought of the CoSLA experience in time, I would have sought at Committee stage to rearrange the extra constituencies on a pattern that has proved so successful with CoSLA. At this stage of the Bill I am advised it would be far too complicated, if not also improper, to try to remake the whole machinery of the Bill to fit this pattern. So the best we can seriously hope for is that this will be taken on board by the Boundary Commission when the time comes. Only then, I submit, can Scotland's rural areas achieve the voice they deserve in the Scottish parliament, which, one hopes, will by then have earned sufficient prestige to enable a radical overhaul to be taken in hand. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend takes us to a future election--that is an important point to make--and right into an addendum, so to speak, to the rules which will govern the drawing up of the new regional boundaries. One of the slightly daft propositions in front of us is that the regions we shall use next May are the regions for the European elections, and yet the same Government who want to

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use these regions have abolished European elections using single member constituencies. Therefore the regions no longer have any validity, if they ever did have, as regards electing a Scottish parliament. However, as my noble friend said, he accepts it is too late to do anything about these regions now. He proposes one of the factors that the Boundary Commission should take into account when it decides on the regions after the first elections.

I think my noble friend has a good point in suggesting that the Boundary Commission should look to the practice of CoSLA. I do not think he has drafted his amendment so that the practice has to be the same as that of CoSLA, but he seeks to use the representation adopted by CoSLA to create a balance between the predominantly rural regions in Scotland and the urban regions. I believe that earlier the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, mentioned the fear felt by many in rural Scotland that they will be dominated by west/central Scotland in particular. My noble friend's amendment makes some sense because the regions as currently constituted are pretty disparate as regards their numbers. A figure of seven per region means that Glasgow, which is already over-represented, will receive the same number as, for example, the north-east region of Scotland which in terms of Glasgow is under-represented. In fact, in terms of Glasgow everywhere else in Scotland is under-represented. However, I do not wish to return to that argument.

If one were using the regional top-up to try to smooth out these inequalities from the first-past-the-post system, something along the lines of my noble friend's suggestion would be sensible. If the Government will not accept my noble friend's amendment, they should at least say that they will give other instructions to the Boundary Commission which would achieve the same kind of objective; namely, a rebalancing inside Scotland of the power base, as it were, between rural Scotland and urban Scotland.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, wonders never cease. I have heard two speeches from the Benches opposite praising CoSLA. I never thought I would live to see this day!

This amendment deals with the noble Earl's views of the proper representation that should be given to rural areas. We agree it is important that we have a parliament which represents the diversity of Scotland. However, we think that the electoral arrangements provided for in the Bill will provide that all areas of Scotland will be properly represented. That was one of the reasons we decided on the Euro constituency unit and the equal number of representatives from the individual Euro areas.

Amendment No. 23 deals with representatives in the parliament. However, instead of altering the number of electors per constituency, the noble Earl is seeking to alter the rules for the determination of the boundaries of electoral regions.

At present, paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 requires the electorate of a region to be as near to that of the other regions as is reasonably practicable, having regard to special geographical considerations. The amendment

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would replace the provision for special geographical considerations with a requirement for the representation of rural and urban regions to be comparable to the distribution of places in CoSLA. I understand that we are talking about the full convention meeting of CoSLA rather than any of its other institutions.

I understand that the noble Earl seeks to ensure that the special needs of rural areas are taken into account in determining the size and representation of electoral regions for the parliament. I believe that the approach which the Boundary Commission takes already achieves that and I do not believe that his amendment would improve the position.

Perhaps I should declare an interest in that I did not draft the present constitution of CoSLA but I drafted the third from present constitution. CoSLA goes through constitutions with as much speed and regularity as happens in France. As I understand it, representation on CoSLA is determined solely by the population of each local authority, with a minimum representation of three. This means that representation ranges from the smallest councils with three representatives each to the City of Glasgow with seven. Therefore, an authority with a population of about 50,000 has three representatives, whereas an authority such as Glasgow with a population of about 1 million has seven representatives. That is too great an imbalance and inequality to form an effective base for representation in the parliament.

No account is taken of the physical size or geography of the authority area. Thus Highland and Renfrewshire, with broadly similar populations, both have five representatives, despite Highland covering nearly 100 times the land area of Renfrewshire. That is all right for the kind of body that CoSLA is, but it is not a sound basis on which to base representation in the Scottish parliament. I do not wish to cast any aspersions on CoSLA's rules. They have been determined by that body to meet its own requirements and its own circumstances. However, they are not designed for the purposes of an electoral system.

Schedule 1 to the Bill already allows special geographical considerations to be taken into account by the Boundary Commission. That is right and proper. I believe that this provides sufficient safeguard that the special needs of rural areas can be considered. In Committee I explained that Highlands and Islands and the south of Scotland, two of the most rural areas of Scotland, with 21.1 per cent. of the electorate will have 24 per cent. of the seats in the Scottish parliament. That is a sound and reasonable outcome. If the amendment is accepted, and at any time in the future CoSLA for its own reasons changed its formula, that would have to be reflected in the electoral arrangements for the Scottish parliament. Clearly we cannot have the electoral arrangements for the Scottish parliament being determined by a third party. That would be totally wrong.

I hope the noble Earl recognises that rural Scotland will be well and properly represented in the parliament. It will certainly not be under-represented. As I said, taking the two most rural areas together, Highlands and Islands and the south of Scotland, we find that those two

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areas, which account for 21.1 per cent. of the population, obtain 24 per cent. of the representation. I believe that that is about right. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to withdraw his amendment.

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